20 CFR 416.935 – How we will determine whether your drug addiction or alcoholism is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.

Sources: Code of Federal Regulations, Cornell Law, Nolo.com


First, in 1996, the Social Security Act was amended to eliminate eligibility for disability benefits based on drug addiction and/or alcoholism. Prior to that date, individuals could get SSI or SSDI disability benefits if their alcoholism or drug addiction was so severe that it prevented them from working.

The way the law works today is that a person cannot receive disability benefits if drug addiction or alcoholism (what Social Security calls “DAA”) is a “material factor” in their disability.


Case Law: Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949 (10th Cir. 2001)

Joseph Bustamante appeals the district court’s judgment affirming the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) denial of his application for disability benefits and for Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. � 1291, and we reverse and remand because (1) the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) prematurely evaluated the impact of Bustamante’s alcoholism prior to completing the five-step sequential disability inquiry; and (2) the ALJ’s conclusion that Bustamante did not have a severe mental impairment was not supported by substantial evidence.

Accordingly, we reverse and remand with instructions that the ALJ proceed with step three (and four and five, if necessary) of the disability determination without attempting to separate out the impact of Bustamante’s alcohol abuse. Only if the ALJ determines that Bustamante is disabled under the five-step inquiry, should the ALJ consider whether” alcoholism is a contributing factor material to” that determination, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1535 and 416.935.

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